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Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): As someone who also strongly believes in enlargement, does the hon. Gentleman agree that Turkey is unlikely to be admitted to a tightly integrated union, as foreseen by the European constitution, and is more likely to join a disaggregated and looser association of sovereign states? Surely advocates of enlargement should be against the constitution.
Mike Gapes: I do not think that those two statements follow. I agree that when the time comes for Turkey to be admitted, which will probably be in at least two decades' time, and its accession is on the agenda, we will have to face up to the need to make other arrangements. I assume, however, that intergovernmental conferences will take place between now and then. The current arrangements deal with the accession of the 10 countries that recently joined, plus the planned accession of Romania and Bulgaria in two years' time.
I take the point, however, that the EU as structured is not an efficient way to deal with an enlarged 25-member EU. We need to deal with that not just in terms of subsidiarity, which is correct, the powers of national Parliaments, which I support, and the scrutiny role, but in terms of sheer efficiency and competency in how we deal with things. Anyone who goes to Brussels will see the interpreters in booths and hear them translate different languages from, for example, Greek to Finnish to something else. The sheer cost of that is not an efficient use of resources for any organisation.
There are no easy answers because of national interests. Every country has its own national interest and will fight hard for it. I agree that we need to change the attitude taken. Although I would have voted for and supported the constitutional treaty, the fact that the French and Dutch rejected it gives those of us who believe in Europe, in dialogue, in co-operation and in an outward-looking enlarged EU the historic opportunity to move away from the narrow debate and to get into the wider issues of what Europe stands for and what it represents.
The world in which we live increasingly faces demands for interventionin terms of pre-emption and prevention, or on a humanitarian basisto deal with internal conflicts or interstate conflicts. We have to recognise that the EU needs to develop its capability to do more. We have seen developments in co-operation based on our European experience, including the important development of the British-led EUFOR taking over from SFOR in Bosnia. We can do more together. Despite difficulties on other issues, Britain and France can work well on some things, especially in Africa. We have been involved in the conflicts in the Congo, and we are already discussing the enlargement of the African Union's mandate and what support should be given to the AU with regard to Darfur. In some quarters, there have been discussions about how NATO can assist the AU, but the EU, too, could in different ways provide assistance on a more coherent basis to AU regional security structures, to deal with conflict prevention and conflict resolution.
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Mr. Drew: My hon. Friend must be aware that there was conflict between NATO and the EU over the airlift to Darfur, which caused considerable difficulty. There is a problem when two organisations overlap. What the people of Darfur want is clarity, not argument.
Mike Gapes: My hon. Friend is right. Turf wars between NATO and the EU do not help anyone. In general, we have avoided such situations, but there is still the potential for them. Some people want to drive the Americans out of our security structure and build an alternative, which is completely unrealistic. Others, who live in the past, believe that we should do nothing unless the United States is in the lead. Neither position is correct. We need to build on what the Government agreed with the French at St. Malo in 1998, so that, incrementally, we can develop effective capabilities for the EU to act when NATO is not engaged. We should call on NATO assets for assistance when the United States itself does not want to participate.
We are doing that slowly and incrementally, but we need to get away from the rhetoric, especially some of the Gaullist rhetorica belief in Europe's capability that is not matched in reality by the contributions of the member states. Only the UK and France have forces that could seriously make such a contribution, and until the German Government take seriously their national defence responsibilities and reform their defence structures to move away from the cold war legacy of territorial defences, we shall never, either in western Europe or the EU, have a serious defence capability.
To be fair, the Germans have moved to some extent. They are part of ISAFthe international security assistance force in Afghanistanwhere they are playing a positive and leading role. Nevertheless, there is great resistance in Germany, especially on the left, and I hope that German politicians will give the issue further consideration over coming months.
My final point is that we must recognise that what the EU does and says internationally matters. It is important that we ensure that the Doha round succeeds and that the meeting in Hong Kong later this year is successful. We in the EU have a responsibility both through our approach to the third world and the developing world and in our relationship with the group of 22 countries in the negotiations, led by Brazil, India and China. If we are not flexible, there could be no agreement. Similarly, the Americans must move. Their Farm Bill and their attitudes towards some of the farm issues are as bad as the CAP that we criticise.
Together, in western Europe and in Europe as a whole, we can, with the enlarged EU, have a significant voice in those international negotiations. If we revert to narrow nationalism, spending all our time squabbling and fighting, trying to rerun the battles of Agincourt or anywhere else, we shall fail. Failure will not be forgiven by future generationseither in our continent or the rest of the world.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP):
I am sorry that the man who made his maiden speech from across the way has had to leave the House, so I shall reserve what I was going to say about the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Dr. McDonnell) until another occasion.
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However, 35 years ago, when I first fought to become a Member of Parliament, he was so keen to have a go at me that he signed a nomination form stating that he was 21 when he was only 18. We had a battle royal, and when he was elected he told me, "It took me 35 years to get here, Ian, and I blame you for that."
The wrangling over the future of Europe has spilled over into a debate on the European budget. The calls by some countries for the United Kingdom to give up its rebate have more to do with certain European Governments beating their breasts after electoral defeat than with the details of European finances. The rebate does not have anything whatsoever to do with the constitution and it was never part of the round of debates on the constitution. If certain Governments and countries are still smarting because the people have rejected their vision of Europe, that is their affliction, and the British people should not be told, "You have to give up something, because we have had a no vote on the constitution."
The pre-eminent view is that the people of the United Kingdom are all for co-operation with the other nations of Europe, but they are against incorporation in a superstate. Having spent 25 years as an MEP watching the European Parliament conduct its business, I know that there is a strong lobby in Europe for a superstate into which we would all be incorporated. I hope that that will never happen, because there are enough large states across the world and we do not want another superior nation to flex its muscles and ask others to take it on.
I firmly believe that the United Kingdom should not renegotiate the European rebate. The Treasury, in response to questions that I tabled, has confirmed that the amount of money per head of population that has left Northern Ireland for Europe is much less than the sum received by Northern Ireland. I was one of a number of MEPs, including John Hume, who secured well-deserved money for a peace programme. However, when I looked across the border, I saw that the southern Government was receiving £6 million a day. To keep my seat, I was supposed to say nothing about it. However fair play is fair play, and the British people should not be told that, because two nations have said no to the constitution, they must look at the rebate. I hope that the British Government stand firm on the rebate. The Prime Minister said that they will, but his resolve is growing a little weaker every day. Knowing from experience in Northern Ireland how weak it might become, I fear for the rebate. I would not put my money on it if I were a betting man, but thank God I am not.
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